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Interview: SILT Discuss Their New EP, ‘Contact High’

Melbourne-based alt-pop rock trio, SILT have recently unveiled their debut EP, Contact High. We sat down with the band to find out more about the release, developing a sound, influences and more!

Congrats on the debut EP – we have loved every moment of it. With it finally out into the world tell us, how has the process been for the band leading up to the release and how does it feel to have it out?

Thank you so much! I would say it’s been an incredibly exciting, unusual, challenging, and at times frustrating process – with so many COVID-related challenges we’ve had to overcome.

Basically in late 2019/early 2020 we were gigging a lot, but then when lockdown was introduced in Victoria, we had to stop all that live performing we loved so much. We had been recording and releasing singles from a more promotional perspective – and often the arrangement we came up with in a rehearsal room is what you hear in those earlier recordings.

But we wanted this EP to be purely for our own gratification and enjoyment amid the chaos of the pandemic. We wanted this to be about us having some fun and giving us something exciting and positive to focus on.

The three of us (Jessie, Josh and Harry) spent many months going back and forth, sending across different demo versions of the songs and production ideas online, crafting the production of the songs. And then we brought Jimi from Ginger Studios in to help us finalise the production which was all done online too!

In January 2021 after many COVID-related delays, we were finally able to come together with Jimi to start the recording process and did a lot of that at Sing Sing Recording Studios and at Jimi’s home studio. We finalised the EP I think around April this year, and got Michael from Kick Push PR on board to help us promote our EP through two singles and then finally the release of the EP this month.

‘Contact High’ is a really emotive set of tracks, what does the EP mean to you and what is it about?

I’m glad that you can feel the emotion in there! I have always been the kind of songwriter that uses the process to better understand myself and my own emotions, to express myself in a way that is much larger than life and feels much more authentic to me than just simple expression through words. So to me, I feel that the EP reflects who I am right now – what I’m struggling with or fearful of, and what carries me through my hard days and gives me confidence.

I think the EP overall is about the way the people in our lives influence our state of mind for better or worse, and learning to take charge of that. It’s about learning to ask for the space that you need, learning to say no, trying to leave the past in the past and forge a new way forward, and all the while, making sure to hang onto those moments of joy you share with those you love.

Is there anything specific you wish listeners to take away from the EP?

I just hope our listeners identify with these songs a little, or allow themselves to get swept away into another world for a moment through the vibrant and whimsical production we’ve tried to put together. When I’m listening to music, I love it when a line of the lyrics stands out to me – maybe it helps me feel understood or heard, or maybe it just paints a really beautiful picture in my mind. And then if the production behind that elevates the feeling, even better.

I hope people might get a little tear in their eye as they hear Danna’s beautiful string arrangement in You Hate It, or let out some anger and frustration by air-guitaring the solo in I Always Need A Break. That’d just make me so happy.

What’s your approach/ method when conceptualizing ideas for a song and then the artistic direction (artwork/ images/ music videos) around the release?

In terms of conceptualising a song, it’s a little different every time. I usually find that it’s a combination of feeling an emotion that I know I need to translate into music somehow, and also being inspired by other artists with their own works and wanting to create something in that vein.

I might often rely heavily on an influence in the first place to get me started – perhaps I want to find a melody line that sweeps in the same way another favourite song does, or maybe I want to find an ominous riff or chord progression to help express something a bit angry or sad. It’s a bit of a mysterious process. But once I have the ‘bones’ of a song down, I rely heavily on Harry and Josh to drive the production forward and I always love the final versions we come up with together.

In terms of visual ideas and artistic direction, Josh found the EP cover art work and we all loved it instantly. We are actually a group of three pretty awkward people, and I think we saw ourselves in that strange cactus person earnestly holding a bunch of roses. For me a lot of the visual direction was spawned from that one image – I sort of got lost in the idea of this magical and whimsical desert land and have had lots of fun creating that world.

There are also certain images that come to mind for me for each of the different songs. For example with I Always Need A Break, I always envisaged a busy highway with cars speeding past. And that then informed a lot of the imagery surrounding that single.

There is a lot of variety in your songwriting and soundscapes, what are some of the key influences and inspiration to the band sounds and why?

There are so many artists and genres that inspire us. But I’ll try and pick out a few of the key ones!

Holy Holy is a big influence for us. I think the big, layered production featuring saturated guitars and synths really drew us in – but the lyricism and songwriting really stands up underneath it all and brings all their production back down to earth. Just a great combination of a big, 80s inspired sound paired with very direct and engaging song writing.

One of my favourite songwriters, especially from a lyrical and melodical perspective, is Middle Kids. I love Hannah Joy’s sweeping melodies that are so full of emotion and feeling, and I think the lyrics strike an amazing balance between being relatable and being mysterious. It’s sort of giving you enough understanding to draw you in, but at the same time not spoon-feeding you the meaning.

I also love Taylor Swift. She’s just incredible, I don’t even know where to begin with her. I just don’t know another songwriter that has much of their personality, soul, essence – whatever you want to call it – in their songs.

You have created a really unique sound for yourselves, do you have any tips for bands trying to hone into their own sound?

Thank you! I suppose one piece of advice that has worked for me in some instances is, don’t be afraid to lean into your influences, especially when you’re just trying to get a song off the ground. Once you have a few layers in there, the ideas will start flowing more.

I guess the other thing for me is, I always let my feelings and emotional response guide me through every part of putting a song together – writing the lyrics, writing the hook, deciding the drum beat, everything. I try not to think about theory or conventions too much. And that trust in your own gut feeling towards what you’re creating will lead to something unique I believe.

Being in lockdown in Melbourne, is there anything that you are eager to do when it ends? Any bands that you’ve been listening to that you are keen to get out and support?

Ah yes, well of course we are just so keen to perform our EP, and we can’t wait to all get together as a band and put together an awesome live show. I can’t wait to get out and about and see all the other great local bands we have gotten to know over the past few years.

We were due to see Methyl Ethyl in July but that got cancelled. I really hope that one gets rescheduled. I’m also really looking forward to watching Mallrat early next year, and any other of my favourite artists that grace us with their presence!

With the EP out and the year on its way to a close, what else do you have planned for the year and can we expect more tunes from you next year?

We have a few shows lined up to round out the year which we will start promoting soon, and we’re really excited about those. I think it’s safe to say you can expect some new songs from us next year. I’ve written a few songs since the EP that I’m feeling really excited about, and I’m starting to see some new themes and concepts emerging in that collection of songs. So all going well, we’ll have an exciting new release to share!

Written by Chris Lamaro